Coronavirus: Official warns person behind Chinatown rumor could get in trouble

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- An online rumor about businesses in Chinatown and the coronavirus could land someone in trouble.

Inside Jusgo Supermarket in Houston's Chinatown, you can see the effects of the coronavirus scare. Shoppers are now wearing masks, employees are wearing gloves, and there's plenty of room to walk alone in the aisles.

What is coronavirus? What US health officials know about outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China
EMBED More News Videos

ABC News' Dr. Jen Ashton explains what health officials know -- and don't know -- about the deadly outbreak.

But, the store manager says his shop shouldn't look this way, and he's losing a lot of money.

"Grocery store business dropped about 50 percent, and the restaurant supply orders dropped about 70 percent of the business," the owner said. "Even as recent as yesterday, rumors are still going on that an employee from the supermarket was sick."

Not just sick, but suffering from the coronavirus.

A strain of the flu that's killed more than 200 in China, and prompted the American government to tell people not to visit the country.

Coronavirus: 1st US human-to-human transmission confirmed, bringing country's total cases to 6
EMBED More News Videos

Health officials Thursday reported the first U.S. case of person-to-person spread of the new virus from China.

But the thing is, social media chatter about Houston's Chinatown isn't true, and U.S. Representative Al Green held a news conference in front of the grocery store to send a message.

"I want the persons who are spreading these rumors to know that they are causing harm and they might be subject to litigation if they persist with malicious rumors," Green said.

Green learned firsthand it's not only the supermarket taking a hit, but several Chinatown businesses. He toured the area, and met with owners, some of which spoke to him in their empty shops.

Houston Health leaders said there's no confirmed Coronavirus cases in the city, and none in the state. Green hopes hearing the truth with encourage people to fill Chinatown stores and bring back revenue loss he says was caused by false information.

"This is a time for us to deal with facts, and not fear. The facts are that the business is open, no confirmed cases, and people who are found to spread these malicious rumors may be prosecuted," Green said. In addition to the news conference, Green also announced a task force will be formed to tackle this issue.

Follow Nick Natario on Facebook and Twitter.
Copyright © 2020 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.